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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Thursday, 6 February 2014


... Victory.

And a Ripping Yarn.

Reading the novel Innocence by that very English writer, Penelope Fitzgerald, while on the train to a meeting in London, I came across this: 'in Florence they went to the Caffe Voltaire, in Via degli Alfani, and discussed the purpose of life. This, undeniably, was reproduction'. Whether or not this is the case (the ascetically religious might deny it), the important thing is that by reproducing one might create a wargames opponent. This, happily, has been my lot, and my reproduced wargaming opponent came round to the Hobbit hole this evening to try our joint hand at the board-game, 1812, The Invasion of Canada. I do have a half completed 20mm plastics project of the War of 1812 (the better half, you understand), but, at the moment, this is the only way Front Snr and Front Jnr (or should that be Front VSnr and Front Snr, given that Front Snr has, himself, reproduced a Front Jnr... if you take my meaning). In any case, the board war rather neatly followed the historical experience:

Above: an overview of the basic game set-up, for the opening shots of 1812, with the land of the free to the left, and the USA to the right. US regulars are blue, with militia in white (Dr. Front's team), with British regulars red, Canadian militia in yellow, and native Americans in green (middling Front's side).

At first, the US took the initiative (drawn from a bag) and, unlike the beginnings of 1812 in reality, eschewed the Niagara front, although in the shot above the British-Canadians have fought back across their border.

Given this was a Hobbit match, English ale was drunk. What is interesting is that in my drinking lifetime (c.1976 to date) I have seen the triumph of big brewery p**s and CO2 in the 1970s and 1980s, followed by a fightback by the pressure group CAMRA, then the rebirth of small breweries across the land. The ales above were taken almost randomly from the shelves, but, as you can see, are all very clearly 'branded' as ENGLISH ales. This says something about the politics and culture of a country (indeed, countries) in transition...

But, to return to the you can see above, the board moves quickly reverted to the historical experience, and fierce fighting on the Niagara front soon saw the Yankees of 1812 taking to their heels.

Shortly after that Niagara clash, the came was concluded (by time), with, as you can see below

a number of British-Canadian successes (the flag markers). 

Last weekend, The Sunday Telegraph carried a very interesting article about the voyages of a World 
War I merchant submarine, the Deutschland. It was a private venture by the firm that now trades as Hapag-Lloyd designed to beat the Royal Navy's blockade. It did a couple of successful trips to the USA before the Americans entered the war and the submarine was taken into the German Navy. The newspaper story hung on the fact that the skipper, Cpt. Paul Koenig was married to an Englishwoman, Kathleen, and at the outbreak of war, the two had parted on amicable and purely patriotic grounds.

The whole story was, for a change from a newspaper, news to me, and I quickly repaired to that wonder of the internetron, ABE Books, and, for a trifle bought a copy:

of Koenig's account, The Voyage of the Deutschland. This copy is a first edition, published in New York in 1916 by Hearst's International Library Co., and is, therefore, a fine historical artefact in its own right. Its previous owner, now in all probability long gone to the land of shades/into glory, was R.L.Hough. And now, for a while, it will be mine.


  1. Hurrah for the Anglo-Canadians!

    I wonder sometimes who will have my books when they are gone. I have made some provision for the figures of course. It seems silly that I did not include the books in that.

    1. Yes, I know what you mean. I hope that my old college will be interested in a good number of my academic, and academic-related books, but that still leaves thousands of others that mean things to me, but... As for the figures etc, I used to stress my son out when he was about 8 by telling him that I'd arranged to be buried with them all like some pagan type. He wasn't bothered about his poor old dad - just the figures! The rotter!

  2. Boardgame looks most interesting.
    Conrad has got me thinking re my figures and books...
    I only recognise the Bombadier. Ales are indeed one of life's pleasures enjoyed in my Tradgardland hobbit hole too.

    1. Yes, it seems to have a great deal of potential - the Great Lakes offer a long and difficult to allow for front - but we have only scratched the surface.

      Ale - well you've got Deuchar's IPA up there (and, happily, in one of my local pubs), and 70/-, 80/-...

  3. Al
    I've played the 1812 game several times and I like it a lot. As a celiac, I cant drink beer (other than the rare Gluten Free brands) so i'm a cider or red wine drinker. However, enjoy your brews.
    Cheers, PD

    1. Yes, it is rather good, I thought, and I'm not a great boardgamer. n the ale front - you have my sympathies. My son used to be anaphylactic and could only drink the beer that you mention. Happily, our local supermarket (Sainsbury's) does stock a small range. And, of course, as you know, there is many a fine cider!

  4. I've played that game once, and thought quite highly of it. I should have it for my library.
    English ales ... one of your country's greatest contributions to the world, I think, next to Elgar and the Clash.
    I did indeed enjoy the first few lines of your post ... one of the most surprising and delightful roundabout openings I've had the pleasure of reading recently.

    1. My thanks for your kind words, good sir! Yes, my Englishness finds its roots in the language, its literature, some of our painters, ale, church bells, churches, vernacular architecture, and landscapes created by long interaction between people and nature. But the beer and books travel best!